George Wein & The Newport All-Stars
Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola
Jazz At Lincoln Center
New York City, New York
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
The avuncular George Wein is beaming like he's holding his own personal jam session at home, inviting his favorite players and basking in their glow. Well, this is pretty close to the reality of this opening night at Dizzy's, and this is what the octogenarian Wein always used to do when programming the Newport Jazz Festival, only on a much grander scale. Rarely could we see a musician looking so content with his lot, so happy to witness the interaction of his band. This might paint a picture of Wein being a bystander at his own party, and there is indeed a strong element of relaxation in his demeanor. He's not flashing up and down the piano keys at high speed, or barking out instructions, or commanding a set-in- stone running order. Instead, Wein injects plenty of space and thoughtfulness into his soloing approach, invariably making his carefully chosen statements at a precisely opportune moment.
The most remarkable aspect of this evening is the unlikely combination of players involved, a testament to Wein's boundless taste. This is the first time that I've caught Randy Brecker without his trademark beret and sporting a suit. He's almost unrecognizable, and we don't often have the chance to witness him negotiating such a mainline jazz repertoire. The trumpeter's horn partner is tenorist Lew Tabackin, who manages to combine gracious smoothness with just a touch of eccentric orneriness. Then Howard Alden's guitar, arriving from a completely different mainstream place, and the bass/drum axis handled by the more modernist Peter and Kenny Washington (no relation).
Everyone seems to be feeding off Wein's glow, as Brecker and Tabackin deliver a faultless round of solos, already in flight by the second number: the homage to John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie, "Birk's Works." Brecker is gleaming and precise, on trumpet and flugel, whilst Tabackin is feathery yet tough, his tone the kind of internal, intimate wheeze that nowadays seems almost banished from the music. Every reedy grain is tangible. Wein jokes that Lew likes to play in trio format, without a piano, Tabackin looking almost guilty as he points his horn at Wein, serenading the leader whilst the pianist leans over attentively, smiling. Alden also gets a trio spot, and Wein sits out at the crucial climactic point of the set, allowing pianist-extraordinaire Michel Camillo to join in for a joyous reading of "Take The 'A' Train." It's clear that Wein is a most generous host...